Liz Truss urges Russia to take 'path of diplomacy' in Lavrov meeting
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Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary, will today meet her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. She is expected to be on the back foot however, as her plan to have put the UK’s “toughest sanctions regime against Russia” on the statute book in time for the trip fell through. She previously told MPs that laws would be in place by February 10, but nothing has been put to Parliament yet.
The Foreign Office confirmed the delay, and in a statement, said: “Our new sanctions legislation will be signed by an FCDO minister this week and will be laid in Parliament shortly after.
“This will be the UK’s toughest sanctions regime against Russia, and means we can act in concert with the US and other partners.”
Her visit comes amid some of the most intense relations between Russia and the West for decades, with Moscow having deployed over 100,000 troops along its shared border with Ukraine.
While President Vladimir Putin denies he plans to invade Russia’s neighbour, the West is on high alert for any snap annexation.
While Ms Truss is fairly new to the world of foreign policy, only having taken the role in 2021, she does have experience in dealing with wealthy, powerful individuals from Russia.
In 2019, she accidentally revealed that the wife of a former Russian senior politician and ally of Putin paid the Tories £135,000 to have dinner with then-Prime Minister Theresa May and several other Cabinet ministers, via an Instagram post.
The post showed Ms Truss and the female members with Lubov Chernukhin, wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, former deputy minister of finance and former chairman of Russian state development corporation Vnesheconombank, in a five star Goring hotel in Belgravia.
Mr Chernukhin served under Putin in the early 2000s, although the Conservative Party said he had fallen out of favour with the President.
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The Tories were keen to add that Mrs Chernukhin is not a “Putin crony”.
Ms Truss wrote in the caption of the photograph: “And it’s ladies night…#cabinetandfriends #girlpower”.
Ms Chernukhin can be seen to the right of Mrs May.
She then reportedly sat down to dinner with the MPs, who included Amber Rudd, Karen Bradley, and Andrea Leadsom.
They were served a three-course meal of asparagus, beef Wellington and Eton mess, according to the Daily Mail.
While there was no suggestion of wrongdoing, the image of wining and dining with the wife of an ally of Putin ran in stark contrast to Mrs May’s pledge to toughen up on the issue of Russian money and influence in the UK, after the 2018 nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
At the time, Mrs May said the UK could no longer engage in “business as usual” with Russia and Putin.
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Following the release of the image, Politico reported that senior Government sources could not contain their rage at Ms Truss.
One source told the publication: “This just shows how desperately poor her judgement is.
“Already overheard b****ing about colleagues, she’s now dropped them in it for the sake of a few likes on Instagram.
“One female MP told me tonight that,‘This is why she’ll have three supporters come election time.”
Ms Chernukhin is a British citizen, having moved to London in 2003, while her husband moved the following year, becoming a citizen in 2011.
Between 2012 and 2020, she donated more than £2million to the Conservative Party, making her the largest female political contributor in British history.
Meanwhile, speaking before her visit to Moscow, Ms Truss said: “Russia should be in no doubt about the strength of our response.
“We have said many times that any further invasion would incur severe costs, including through a coordinated package of sanctions.
“Russia has a choice here.
“We strongly encourage them to engage, de-escalate and choose the path of diplomacy.”
In a statement on Wednesday morning, the Russian foreign ministry warned British officials to change their rhetoric after the UK said there had been no evidence of Russian military de-escalation along Ukraine’s border.
The statement read: “The British side must be clearly aware that without a clear change in the tone of the speeches of representatives of the British leadership, productive interaction is impossible either in solving bilateral problems or in settling international problems.
“Relations between our countries should be based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, without artificial restrictions hindering business.”
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